Call it what you want, Milan Lucic was suspended for throwing a punch at Kole Sherwood’s head. And that the Flames bruiser is defending his actions likely means there’s going to be another transgression at some point down the line.
Milan Lucic|Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
So now Milan Lucic wants us to look up the definition of sucker punch. Seriously? All right, if you say so. Well, the world’s most authoritative dictionary, the Oxford English Dictionary, defines sucker punch as, “an unexpected punch or blow.” (It then uses it in a sentence this way: “His father sucker punched him and knocked him out.” So many questions.) Even in the face of this mountain of evidence, Lucic claims his blow to Kole Sherwood’s head over the weekend was actually a forearm shiver, not a sucker punch. Good grief.
After Lucic received his two-game suspension for his sucker punch/forearm shiver to Sherwood, you might have expected him to be just a little repentant, perhaps even just a little regretful. Well, you would be wrong. Lucic has chosen to die on the hill of protecting his teammates, particularly his goalie, from being whacked on the pads by a forward digging for a loose puck. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is really rich.
You may recall that back in 2011, Lucic was playing for the Boston Bruins. In a game against the Buffalo Sabres, Lucic was sprung for a partial breakaway, but lost control of the puck. Sabres goalie Ryan Miller came out to play the puck and beat Lucic to it and Lucic responded by drilling Miller in an act that was about as egregious and deliberate as it gets. But now Lucic is portraying himself as the great defender of goalies and teammates. The only problem with all of that is teams need players like Milan Lucic to protect themselves from players like Milan Lucic. “It’s a schoolyard out there,” Lucic told reporters after the suspension. “You’ve got to defend your teammates or you kind of get walked over.” By players such as Lucic. Just ask the Buffalo Sabres.
The biggest problem I have with this line of thinking from these guys is they’re supposed to be the defenders of all that is right in the game. They’re supposed to uphold this ridiculous, moving target of a code of honor in the game and they’re the ones delegated to keep everyone on the right side of that code. But more often than not, they’re the ones creating the mayhem that necessitates the need for them to be in the lineup in the first place.
But what concerns me most about Lucic’s lack of contrition is that now it has been all but affirmed that like the rest of the hockey world, Lucic has come to the realization that he has almost nothing to offer his team in terms of tangible skill or an ability to create any offense. So he is prepared to willingly take on this role of protector, shielding his teammates from any kind of real or perceived slight.
Mark my words. This will not end well. With three more seasons remaining at $5.25 million remaining on his deal, Lucic is a prime candidate to be bought out at some point before his contract expires. And Lucic will want to prevent that from happening, so he’ll be eager to prove his worth, which at this point doesn’t go far beyond hitting and fighting people. So that is what he will do. It’s clear that this suspension, nor the three others or five fines he’s incurred during the course of his career, will provide any kind of deterrent when it comes to his approach to the game.
Lucic is a very big man, 6-foot-3 and 231 pounds, and has been playing the game in a bad mood for the past couple of seasons. Whether or not he cocks his arm back to hit someone, he has the potential to cause an awful lot of damage. And if that’s the only thing he’s capable of doing at this point in his career, that’s what he’s going to do.
Lucic has displayed no hesitance to drill an opponent in the head with his glove on. He has done it before and has basically vowed to do it again. But it will always be a forearm shiver and never a sucker punch. Not all of the players at the receiving end will be able to bounce back the way Sherwood did. One of them is going to get hurt. And badly. And all those people who love this stuff will cluck their tongues and talk about how you never like to see these kinds of things and how there is no place in the game for it.
Carry on, then.
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